Facebooking more than Googling

Just in time for the New Year’s celebration, Facebook has even more reason to break out the champagne: It ends the year as the most-visited website in the United States, with 8.93 percent of all visits, beating out Google, which came in second with 7.19 percent of visits. Yahoo Mail was third with 3.52 percent of visits. Last year, the top 3 were Google, Yahoo Mail and Facebook, in that order. Facebook also was the top-searched term of 2010, just like last year, according to a study by Experian Hitwise.

The latest developments cap off a 2010 to remember for the social networking king, which reached the 500-million user mark in July. A couple of weeks ago, CEO Mark Zuckerberg was anointed Time’s person of the year. (See Surely, Facebook Likes today.) A high-profile movie about its founding, “The Social Network,” also helped increase buzz around the Palo Alto company. Despite the movie’s negative portrayal of Zuckerberg, tech observers say the twentysomething exec has improved his public persona. He has come a long way from his sweaty “Nixon moment” during an onstage interview in May. In the past few months, he has deftly handled an appearance on “Oprah,” on which he announced a $100 million donation to New Jersey schools; a “60 Minutes” interview; and interviewed former President George W. Bush.

But what’s ahead for Facebook?  Two main points. First, the company faces increased scrutiny and legal battles about its privacy practices. To some Facebook users, each new feature the company rolls out is cause for suspicion, and perhaps rightly so. For example, Facebook apps were found to be passing along users’ personal information to third parties, which the company said is against its policy. Transparency about what it’s doing to protect user privacy will be key to keeping its 500 million-plus friends and attracting more.

The IPO question looms large. With the SEC looking into trading at hot, fast-growing companies such as Facebook, the pressure to go public could intensify. (See On private companies, trading and valuation: Facebook…) If/when the company goes public, it will be interesting to see how — or whether —  Zuckerberg fits in. A recent Glassdoor survey ranked the company as the best place to work in the U.S., and employees ranked their CEO highly as well. But growing pains are inevitable, and giving up independence could affect Facebook’s momentum.

 
 

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  • David K Sweet

    I would rather see trading in non-public Facebook securities banned or regulated separately somehow than the company be forced to go stupid, er, public. The former probably being unconstitutional, is there any hope for the latter?

    Yeah, my experience is that going public more often results in stupid and destructive stuff happening because the assumption is that organized capital possesses some magical native (high) IQ. But the truth is, money can be awfully stupid compared to a deft one or two people driving a business. Thoughts?

 
 
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